The most controversial figure in the Jose “Girah” Macedo scandal is Haseeb Qureshi. Known in the online poker community as DOGISHEAD, Qureshi’s involvement in the scandal appears, on the surface, to go much deeper than that of Dan “Jungleman12″ Cates. Some have gone as far as to suggest that Qureshi is or played as Macedo at the higher stakes.
In this exclusive interview with BluffMagazine.com Qureshi attempts to come clean about his relationship with Macedo while finally admitting to being behind one of the more mysterious and scandalous parts of the entire scandal, a LockPoker account under the name “SamChauhan”.
BLUFF: When did you first hear that there was an issue with Jose “Girah” Macedo being involved in scamming HSNL players?
Qureshi: The first I heard of it was when Jungle mentioned to me that somebody had contacted him on Facebook saying that they suspected Jose of possibly scamming someone. At the time, it sounded pretty far-fetched.
What seemed far-fetched about it?
Well at the time, we had the utmost faith in Jose. He seemed like a very honest, open, and generous kid. He also had so much going for him. The idea that he would just scam someone was difficult to believe without some good evidence.
Qureshi’s relationship with Macedo goes back to January 2010 when the then 17-year-old reached out to Qureshi via Skype, looking for a poker coach. Over the past 19 months, that relationship evolved into one that including Qureshi editing 2+2 posts on behalf of Macedo, a backing arrangement that also included Cates and ultimately, a chip-dumping scandal that Qureshi is finally admitting to.
I must confess that I am the owner of the “samchauhan” account on Merge..I was involved in staking Jose, as you already know, and we had to get some way to get about $100k to him. He already had some money of his own on Lock, and we agreed to let him use that initial money as his default stake money for the first few weeks. We didn’t want to wire him money directly to his bank account, so we decided to try to transfer it to him on LockPoker where he needed money anyway.
So, I made the account “samchauhan” and put $100k on there, but I wasn’t able to transfer substantial funds to him. Jose told us that the best way to do this quickly (we had been taking a while to get him money as the stake had already been agreed on for over a month but we were slow and lazy to get it organized) was to just chip dump. I said ‘alright, fine,’ and although I knew that getting seen winning $100k from some random account would make girah look good, I also knew Merge isn’t tracked, so it wouldn’t be a big deal and we needed to get him the stake money. So I dumped him the money on Lock using the account “samchauhan”.
The chip-dumping happened in late April as the BLUFF Poker Challenge was wrapping up on LockPoker. Thanks to the $100,000 (minus rake) win, Macedo (already a LockPoker sponsored pro) moved to the front of the pack and eventually won the competition. In the hours following the conclusion of the competition, a post appeared on TwoPlusTwo.com that alluded to the “SamChauhan” account and some other shady happenings concerning Macedo. The post was deleted that morning but BLUFF has obtained its contents in full. The most damning part of the post read:
Macedo has won the challenge earning over $104k during the month of April. I find this fascinating considering he was having a losing month according (to the article) with 2 days left. He had been largely playing no higher than 1k NL and as low as 400 NL. Then all of a sudden on the final day he goes on to play nosebleed stakes and wins enough money to be in first place.
For those that don’t know nosebleed stakes seldom if ever run on the Merge network. So what a coincidence that he was able to find a game at those stakes, on the final day, and not only win but win enough money to get into the lead.
Furthermore, the person against whom the bulk of the money was won was playing under the alias “SamChauhan”. If that is indeed Sam Chauhan of http://www.changingyou.com/, he is a mindset coach not a poker player. Never before have I heard of him playing online poker. Now he is playing against top opponents at nose bleed levels? What made him choose that particular day to all of a sudden start playing 20kNl? Another coincidence?
I believe Sam is from the US, so how did he manage to get so much money onto Merge in such a short period? A bank wire? After black friday? I had never seen him play there before and have not seen him since.
I happened to watch some of their match and it seemed that sam was playing very erratic and unconventional poker. Now I am not going to claim to even understand the thought process of high stakes players, but to me some of the hands that were played seemed very questionable.
Finally, my last coincidence involves a player named INEVERFOLDI. It is rumored that this player also lost quite a bit of money to Girah. I have never seen this player play heads up high stakes and he also happens to be from Portugal. INEVERFOLDI and Girah are the only two portuguese players I have ever seen play high stakes on Merge. Another coincidence?
That week LockPoker.com issued a press release stating that Macedo had indeed been disqualified for the Challenge for allowing another player to play on his account. It turns out that that player was Qureshi.
Where did the story come from about Jose’s backer (we later learned that was you) logging on to his account to play $25/$50 PLO as being the reason he was DQ’d from the competition?
That was the reason he was disqualified from the competition. That took place before the chip dump.
Why would you create a screenname with the name Sam Chauhan, the real name of somebody Dan Cates has very public working relationship with?
I thought it was amusing, because Sam Chauhan is a mental coach who doesn’t play any poker. That was really it.
Had you ever worked with Sam before? Met Sam at all?
I’ve met Sam a few times and spoke to him on several occasions. He obviously has no idea about any of this, but I didn’t think this screenname would ever be looked at. I was just going to use it to dump Jose money and that was it, otherwise, I probably would’ve chosen a more inconspicuous screenname.
Qureshi claims that at the time of the $100,000 chip dump he had no idea that the BLUFF Poker Challenge was taking place. According to Qureshi he only learned of it afterwards, from Macedo.
Soon after the dump is done and we go back over the terms of the stake, he mentions the BLUFF Challenge that’s going on. He was already sponsored by Lock, of course, but it was quite a public event. Once he told me, I got really angry and terrified. I asked him why he didn’t tell me earlier and told him that dumping $100k during a high profile competition like this is super stupid, that it’s going to get looked at and found out, that it’s essentially cheating. But he told me that he’d already told me and he assumed I knew I was really angry and freaked out and thought we were going to get that $100k confiscated, that both “girah” and I would be implicated in trying to cheat, etc.
We’ve all now learned Jose had multiple TwoPlusTwo accounts. As far as you know was it just the two, LookingforProdigy and Girah, or were there more?
It was apparently four or more. LookingForProdigy was him, Girah was him. Another account was somebody he told me was a nuthugging railbird who messaged him all the time and would post threads about him , which I told him that if he posted himself would come off really bad and self-promotional. He didn’t post every thread about him, but he posted a number of times in threads and posted a thread or two. Girah was his “real” account, the one he represented himself with, but apparently he was controlling all of them and pretended to me that they were all different people. What baffles me is that the mods didn’t note that “LookingForProdigy” and “Girah” were the same person.
One of the prevailing theories in the poker world is that Qureshi is a lot closer to Macedo than he’s been admitting. Some even suggest he created the “Girah” persona and Macedo, the young high stakes “prodigy” from Europe, doesn’t actually exist.
It’s since come out that you posted under the “Girah” account on TwoPlusTwo. Can you explain why you would do that?
I acknowledged this on TwoPlusTwo a couple of days ago. Girah often asked me to help him compose responses and things like that, and more than once he asked me to get on his TwoPlusTwo account and post things for him. It didn’t seem like a big deal at the time, since I always cleared everything with him before posting. It wasn’t a common occurrence, but I did it a few times. He would ask my advice on almost everything, run all of his Tweets by me, etc. Most of the time, I’d tell him whatever he wrote was fine because he was pretty obsessive about wanting everything he wrote to be perfect.
How many times did you post on TwoPlusTwo using an account other than your own? Specifically how many times did you post under the name “Girah” or “LookingForProdigy”?
I’m not sure how many times I posted under Girah, but it had to be a really small number. Under LookingForProdigy – never. I never even knew this account was his until it was revealed on TwoPlusTwo a few days ago.
Honestly, when I was originally asked if I had ever logged into his TwoPlusTwo account I didn’t remember that I had.
Did you ever act as Jose’s agent?
No, not as far as I understood it. Jose had an agent, Jim Erwood from PokerRoyalty, and I always encouraged Jose to work with his agent where appropriate and ask his advice. I was certainly Jose’s advisor and helped him a lot with his career, but I never tried to negotiate deals or sponsorships for him or anything like that, which, to me, is what an agent does.
I didn’t get him interviews, speak to poker sites, etc. None of that stuff I had the capacity or expertise to do. So no, I have never claimed to be Jose’s agent and I certainly wasn’t, but I did advise him in his career and help him in writing things.
Why are there emails from you, where you explicitly state “I am acting as Jose’s agent”?
Oh, okay, I misspoke. The one thing that Jose and I did agree on was that it would be within my demesne to try to land him a deal with online training sites, but he ended up signing with PokerStrategy in a deal negotiated by his agent. I told Jose from the beginning that my expertise extended only to the online poker community, and beyond that he should rely on his actual agent. So, he thought it was appropriate that I could contact the online training sites.
Basically, when Jose and I first agreed to work together, I told him that the only thing I could help him with was the online stuff. If he wanted a big career, I told him he’d have to eventually transition into live poker, get on TV shows, go to tournaments, and that’s how big careers are forged. And to go that distance, he would need a real agent.
At first, I did not want to work with Jose in any official capacity, I was happy offering advice from the sidelines. but he insisted that I work with him seriously. So when I finally assented, I told him that I would help him with writing, with dealing with online presence, and that I could help get him a deal with an online training site since that was something I had experience in, but anything beyond that, he would need his own agent. And I encouraged him to get an actual one. So I didn’t consider myself his agent, but I can see why that leads to what seems like a contradiction.
When Girah’s almost unbelievable story of winning millions first broke on TwoPlusTwo you were one his biggest promoters and vouched for him early on. What was it about Jose that led you to believe he was going to be a great poker player?
Well, his diligence most of all. The fact that he devoted so much time to studying poker, how hungry he seemed to be to learn from better players, the fact that he was so young and had played so many hands and gotten so much success so quickly. Even though he was quite rough around the edges, I believed he would quickly improve. I don’t think I necessarily believed that he would become one of the very best, but I did believe that he was going to become at least very good, and build a huge career off of it.
There are a lot of people, not just on NVG, who think that you and Macedo are a lot closer than you’re letting on. That there’s a chance that Macedo exists but a lot of the play on the account was you, that a lot of the persona development was your doing. How do you respond to that allegation?
I say it’s fucking ridiculous. I’m not sure how that theory can explain Macedo getting close with the heads-up group that he repeatedly talked strategy and sweated with, how he was able to coach people and take on students, the fact that I haven’t played six-max NL, much less non-PLO games in years, or the fact that I play a lot fewer tables than he does since I’ve been playing heads-up games for the last 3.5 years.
Note that this has never, at all, been suspected by people who have actually spoken to or played with him, which a great many people have.
Now, as far as developing his persona, what I have done, I have admitted to. I helped him to write and edit many of his posts and what not, but I did not create things from scratch.
How many people that you know of have actually met Jose in person?
Well, I don’t know of any. but I know of many, obviously, who have spoken to him and interacted with him, and all of this long before he and I ever started working together.
I’ve spoken very briefly to his girlfriend as well on one occasion, if that counts for something?
So almost all interactions with Jose, for everybody, not just yourself, have come via Skype or email?
Well, he flew out to Gibraltar for when he signed with PokerStrategy and met their team, took photos with them. There were live interviews recorded. I don’t know if he played any poker or did anything there that might demonstrate his identity as a poker player there.
Did you help him with his training video script?
No, he sent it to me as he sent most everything he wrote, but it was way too long and I was very busy at the time dealing with Black Friday stuff.
Numerous times you’ve stated that Macedo’s results were real. Now it appears, even by your admission, that’s not the case. Why were you so adamant that his results were real when you didn’t verify them before agreeing to stake him?
Me and many other people did. Obviously none of us had verified his results.We just believed them, because people faking results is such a ridiculously rare thing in the poker world. I would never suspect that someone would do anything like that unless they were a massive con artist, which I obviously didn’t imagine.
What would you like to say to people who claim you have no credibility in the community now?
To those who claim I have no credibility in the community now, well, it’s hard to know what to really say to this. I clearly have not been honest in stating all of the facts, that’s clear. I haven’t acted honestly towards the community, and I have to own up to that. I was afraid of getting lumped together for Jose and for getting blamed for more than what I did, but, strangely, things have ended up the other way. That in trying to hide the truth, now people are trying to accuse me of more than I ever did and that is part of the consequences I have to face.
That being said, my credibility in owning up to chip dumping, my credibility in owning up to playing on a stakee’s account may be called into question, that much is clear. But the measure of whether or not I have any credibility is, to me, the trust of the people around me, of other high stakes players, of my friends, and of significant members of the community. And who knows, maybe some of them think me untrustworthy now because of all of this mess, but in my interactions with them, I don’t believe that most of them do.
Now, I have no doubt that I’ve lost my credibility with TwoPlusTwo, but I’m not quite sure what that means exactly anyway. It’s unfortunate, but I’ve brought that upon myself I guess for being dishonest.
Why weren’t you honest right from the beginning about everything. Why attempt to cover anything up at all? What did you have to lose by not being 100% honest about everything?
Well basically, I was afraid of exactly what ended up happening. The suggestion that I was involved in scamming people or in jose’s lies, but ever since I chip dumped him money on Merge, unaware of the Bluff Challenge, I think I have felt like I have had a dirty secret that I couldn’t reveal for how bad it would look if it were and how indefensible it would seem that I wasn’t intending to cheat.
I knew that to the masses of TwoPlusTwo, it would be a farfetched story.But it became clear to me, I think a couple of days ago, that I couldn’t keep this back and I had to come clean with it, no matter how it looked.The way everything’s happened, it now really, really looks like I somehow knew about everything, that I am some kind of mastermind involved in all of this.
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